Conn Creek Winery, which produced some of California's most memorable Cabernet Sauvignons in the mid-1970s, is a name that has been missing from the wine trails of Napa Valley for nearly a decade. In January, that name will return to the sign at 8711 Silverado Trail.
Owner Stimson Lane Vineyards and Estates has used the Conn Creek winery in Rutherford since 1994 to promote another one of its brands, Villa Mt. Eden. The Conn Creek wines continued to be produced at that location and were occasionally available for tasting.
"We thought it was time to refocus on Conn Creek," said Keith Love, a spokesman for Stimson Lane. "We feel that in Napa Valley, the best wines, the wines that are most sought-after by enthusiasts and collectors are Bordeaux varietals, and that's what Conn Creek is about. It just didn't make any sense to focus on Villa Mt. Eden. They're fine wines, but winemaker Mike McGrath's experience is with the varietals of Burgundy."
Conn Creek made its debut in 1974, and its first two releases are considered Napa legends: the 1973 Steltzner Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1974 Cabernet from Eisele Vineyard. Ironically, both of those wines were produced by Lyncrest Winery before it went out of business; the wines were then released under the Conn Creek label. Stimson Lane bought the winery in 1986.
In recent years, Conn Creek has been increasing its production, going from a few thousand cases annually to the current 14,200 cases. Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Stimson Lane, said the company has secured long-term contracts to ensure continued expansion.
Conn Creek's most successful wine is Anthology, a red Bordeaux-style blend that has received high marks from Wine Spectator. Winemaker Tom Montgomery has recently added a Merlot and Cabernet Franc to Conn Creek's lineup.
Villa Mt. Eden is moving its base to Hopland, in Mendocino County, where much of the brand's winemaking already takes place, although the goal is to eventually resettle the brand in Sonoma County, Love said. Villa Mt. Eden produces wines in a range of prices and varietals, using grapes from around the state.